By Arthur H. Gunther III
There comes a day when you see a certain face on a relative, friend or former acquaintance, and you realize time has passed, that age has added lines, that days of happiness, difficulty, excitement, boredom and the sometime ordinariness of living have left telltale trails on a visage unique to that person.
Maybe it is because we don’t really look at each other all the time, or at least notice how someone appears on a regular basis, that we don’t see the individual as he/she collects the years. Nor, perhaps, do we see our own aging. Every once in a while, though, we seem to leave close proximity and step back to suddenly notice the person or ourselves in a detached way, almost as an unbiased observer.
It is in that moment that a relative or friend or acquaintance appears to us changed, and that is usually for the better. For we all age, we all have our ups and downs, we all move on, whether it is on the treadmill of life or making the heady climb to whatever is our summit. We are then, at the end, the sum of our experiences, and at any point before that the total of all that has happened so far.
Except for the most hard luck-driven individual, or the person who seems unable or unwilling to obtain some good days, people move toward that summit on relatively clear trails, even if some are unmarked, the many experiences etching the face like so many notches on a Bowie knife. Your childhood. School. Romance. Work. Marriage. Hobbies. Hard times. Good times. They all make their mark on our faces.
Yet nature or your god provides those detached moments when you suddenly get an update on the individual or yourself. One day you spot this person and note the changes, or you get up in the morning and acutely see yourself in the mirror.
Such moments seem so true in their depth of insight, in their perspective that time has gone by, that things have happened, that you or he or she is still there, that the journey continues. There can be grand glory in all this, a small smile at noting how well someone is doing, or even that the individual has simply survived his or her travails.
It is a reaffirmation of life, surely of our own, that we see such change, note it and store the information in the computer that is the mind and add to the mass of feelings that is the spirit. This brings a reality check which shows we all live sometimes challenging lives, that we are all climbing a mountain of some sort.
Imagine if we were not able to step back and take that detached look at ourselves or someone else? We might all live in the past, in a time when we were 16 and the face was without wrinkles, just the oiled blemishes of puberty and all the wonder of that promising but quick moment. No, even as we write the chapters in our lives, or have some lines written for us, we are given a chance to sit down and read the proofs of what so far is written. In that, we might still alter the ending, and in that, too, we can appreciate, even savor, what’s been put down so far.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org